Digital Reference Services: Framework for Analysis and Evaluation

Marilyn Domas White
College of Information Studies, University of Maryland, Hornbake 4117F, South Wing, College Park, MD 20742


            This article presents a framework for analyzing and evaluating digital reference services (DRSs).  Based on systems analysis, the framework consists of about 110 questions related to 18 categories in four broad areas:  mission and purpose, structure and responsibilities to client, core functions, and quality control.  To illustrate the framework's usefulness, the study applies the framework's archive segment to a selective sample of 20 DRSs.  This analysis focuses on existence of a public archive, content, selectivity, safeguards for privacy, access, browsability and searchability, and relationship to frequently asked questions and other site content.  Results of the analysis demonstrate the framework's ability to develop descriptive models of DRS functions, identify most common practices as a first step to identifying best practices, reveal gaps in coverage or implementation, and support comparisons across individual services.

Bibliographic citation:  White, M.D.  (2001).  Digital reference services:  Framework for analysis and evaluation.  Library & Information Science Research, 23, 211-231.